Hi Laura! How would you describe Hare & Wilde to someone discovering it for the first time?
It’s a relaxed and inspiring shopping experience with friendly shopkeepers and a thoughtfully curated collection of simple, natural products for your home, including handmade rugs, house plants, ceramics and many more useful but beautiful products. We wanted to create a space that people can come and enjoy finding products that are a bit different to larger high street stores.
What did you both do before setting up Hare & Wilde?
Both myself and my husband had our own businesses in York – my husband ran a specialist rug store with his family, whilst I had a vintage clothing store. I also studied floristry, which is still something I love to do. We have also kept busy renovating houses together in our spare time.
What inspired the idea of setting up your business?
I had been running my vintage clothing store for nine years and was ready for a change. In that time, we had become a bit tired of city life, and wanted to be part of a more rural community. We were spending all our spare time renovating houses and found that there was nowhere to go for quality home goods locally, so we would always end up looking online. We spotted our lovely shop to let on a day out in Malton, and saw it as our opportunity to work towards our plan to move out of the city.
We set about sourcing products and planning the shop renovations, and after a year of trading as Hare & Wilde I sold my vintage clothing store to concentrate on the business together full-time. We then went on to move house and bought our rural cottage.
What is the ethos or values behind your business?
We try to bring affordable high quality home goods with the added experience of being able to visit a bricks and mortar store. Our ethos is that things can be both beautiful and useful. We source products that are handmade in the UK where we can, as well as from brands and craftspeople that have a story and/or a history behind them.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
Everywhere! I really like Pinterest and could spend hours scrolling and adding to my ideas boards. Instagram is also a huge inspiration to me. I love following other independent stores similar to ours, and seeing what they are doing.
How do you source items for Hare & Wilde?
We stick to natural materials with a neutral palette. We used to go to trade fairs but now we find smaller brands and makers through Instagram, as the large trade fairs are too expensive for small brands to exhibit in. It is also a great place for makers to get in touch with us if they feel their products would work well in our store. I can also just be visiting a new place on holiday and see a brand in a shop that I think would work really well in our store, and Instagram has made it easy to get in touch with them.
How did you approach the design of your space?
To be honest, it has just evolved. When we first opened, the store design was done on a tight budget, we did most of the work ourselves and we were not sure whether our style would be what the local community would want. A few years on, and with a little more confidence, we feel we are finally happy with the design of the shop and connecting with our customers and the local community has really helped shape our style. We keep things bright and airy with natural materials and textures more than colour. I like the store to be an inviting space where people can come and have a chat about their home.
Tell us about your location and community…
Malton is a vibrant market town midway between the coast and the city of York. It is hailed as Yorkshire’s Food Capital, hosting food markets, music festivals and the Marathon Du Malton! We were drawn to the town as there was a growing mix of independent businesses from antique shops to tofu makers! The rents were more affordable than in other nearby cities, which has meant that we have a thriving community of creatives, with homeware, artisan food and drink, clothing shops and more.
Has your business evolved since you began?
Yes definitely, I think every business has to. It is all a learning process when you start your own business. We probably concentrated more on the store the first few years as that is my comfort zone – I like creating spaces and tend to avoid anything that involves sitting at a screen. I soon realised that we had to widen our skills, so we set about improving our web store and working with a talented photographer to improve our product images, which has helped our business to evolve. I also realised the importance of social media and worked hard to create a brand that people feel part of and shared more of our home life.
Is the online community important to your work?
Yes, very important, we would not have been able to survive without the reach Instagram gives us. I am always so surprised to hear how far people have travelled to visit us, or how they have planned a holiday in the area so they can visit. It has opened us up to customers that would not have crossed our path ordinarily. It is also a huge inspiration to me and a source of new ideas and a great community of people.
Working as owners of an independent store – what are the joys, and what are the challenges?
There are so many ups and downs, it is very unpredictable. You have to be able to turn your hand to all sorts of things! One day I can be styling a photo shoot for our web store and the next I can be painting our shop front. The upside is that we can do our own thing and we love that, but we don’t love doing our accounts! I love that every day is different and that there are so many varied roles to being a shopkeeper. It is really special to be able to create a space where people can come visit and enjoy.
How do you approach marketing and PR?
We mainly rely on Instagram. For years we felt like we should be doing more, but at the moment that seems to be working well for us. We have also tried hard to build a business where we can rely on word of mouth in our local community.
Any favourite makers or products?
We stock Isla Middleton’s work, her lino prints and calendars are truly special. She is definitely one of my favourite makers – she captures nature beautifully. I also love all the Iris Hantverk products we stock – the story behind the brand is incredible as their brushes are made by visually impaired craftspeople. Our home is filled with every type of brush you could possibly need!
What have been your business highlights so far?
The highlight is when people say how beautiful our store is, which makes all the hard work worthwhile.
What does your ideal day off look like?
A trip to the seaside with our daughter and dog Belle on a sunny day with a stop for some lunch en-route, and an ice cream when we get there!
Any good advice for aspiring store owners?
You need to be very committed to what you are doing. It is not always easy to push yourself when you don’t have a boss doing that for you. But if you love what you are doing, that comes easily. I would also say stick to what you want to be, it is so easy to try and please everybody but in the long run you can lose your own shop’s identity.